Nu Fetish: the term was coined by film-maker and photographer Christopher Cumingham, whose short films – from only a few seconds up to a few minutes in length – are available on his membership subscription website girlsimetat.com and his page on the free video sharing website vimeo.com.
What’s notable about Nu Fetish is that there’s rarely any sex. You’ll find videos of women crawling under a bed to apply make-up; blowing up a balloon until it pops; dressing in a catsuit and drinking milk from a saucer in the street; eating asparagus; and, in the more explicit videos, masturbating in an art gallery. But the lack of sex doesn’t mean they’re not sexual – they are, but not in the obvious ways you might associate with porn.
Cumingham’s Girlsimetat website states that ‘Our society tends to draw distinctions between pornography and erotica, art and sex. On GIM@ we allow them to intersect without exclusivity as we seek to cross the boundaries between these categories to create a one-of-a-kind visual experience. Our content meditates on the value of the explicit and the unseen, the realities of hidden sexual desires and the beauty of actually making them come true.’ Pretentious as that sounds, there’s a truth to it.
Think about this way: if we didn’t have fetishes, advertising wouldn’t work and consumerism wouldn’t work. These days you don’t buy a car, you buy something that’s an expression of your personality, with a design that’s supposed to remind you of a wild animal pouncing on prey. You’re in control of a beast and it makes you feel powerful and sexual. So why would you not want to have your partner on all fours, moving with feline grace on a collar and leash?
You don’t buy a bottle of wine or a bar of chocolate in a shop any more; you buy the promise of exotic sexual adventure, suggested in the smooth curves of the bottle design or the cheekbones and smile of the model in the advert. You associate these shapes, colours and movements with… well, who knows? Perhaps with experiences have been particularly significant to you, or with social and cultural meanings you’ve been learning since infancy.
The net result is that we’re all, frankly, walking collections of paraphilias. You may have a thing for cars, cross-dressing, handcuffs, hair, needles, navels, pain, pizza, uniforms, underwear, zips, zoos, or anything at all, really. People are attracted to things, desire them, sexualise them, and the sexual charge can be transferred to the things themselves.
The point underlying all this is that humans spend a lot of time imagining things, manipulating symbols, and investing them with emotional significance. It’s those dense networks of meanings and emotions, language and images, that advertising works on. It’s those same networks that give us the fetishes around our sexual identities. And that’s the territory Nu Fetish explores.
Much of this territory, unsurprisingly, revolves around the surreal, the absurd, and a psychoanalytic sense of fetish as sexual arousal brought about by an object or situation. Nu Fetish doesn’t restrict itself to the ‘conventional’ fetishes of leather, rubber, bondage, stockings and so on, instead opening the way to the performers’ private worlds in which everyday activities or objects can carry a surprising erotic charge.
When I was a child, my bedroom had an electric radiator. The bulb inside it glowed orange when it was switched on, creating a pattern like teeth on the ceiling above. I imagined its stumpy legs, shaped rather like chicken feet, growing claws and coming to get me. That’s what my fantasies are made of. They revolve around the colour orange, teeth, claws, electrical items and horror movies. But you probably didn’t want to know that…
Nu Fetish already has its own entry in the online Urban Dictionary (urbandictionary.com), which describes it as ‘a form of amateur pornographic film which creatively cycles around the individual’s desire’ though also notes that ‘who exactly consumes Nu Fetish on the net, is still an unclear demographic as very little information is available. It is assumed that creative people are interested in this form of erotica.’ And there’s a short article on it in the Miami New Times blog, which comments that Nu Fetish ‘stays in your head all day long, popping in your subconscious, arousing you when you least expect. It’s porn for intellectuals.’
Not everything that’s Nu Fetish will appeal to everyone, but maybe that in itself is part of the appeal. We don’t all have the same fetishes, and Nu Fetish is excavating those moments in which sexualisation happens. Despite the apparent lack of sex, the gaze of the camera and the intensity of the performances makes actions ranging from the simple and everyday to the off-the-wall bizarre highly ritualised and sexually charged.
Although Nu Fetish has been very much Cumingham’s project, it’s a collaborative one with ideas coming from the performers themselves and shown in unscripted short videos often created in single takes, driven by the intensity of their own erotic desires. In that sense it’s the kind of approach anyone could take, the kind of video anyone could make, probably straight off the camera of their mobile phone.
And if that hasn’t started to happen already, it probably will in the very near future.
Fulani writes erotic fiction, much of it on BDSM-related themes. His work has previously appeared in Erotic Review and he is also published by Xcite Books, Pink Flamingo and Renaissance Sizzler. A collection of his stories will be published soon by 1001 Nights Press. He blogs at deliciouslydeviant.wordpress.com and fulanismut.blogspot.com.